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  • Alberobello

    Photo by Reisetopia via Unsplash

  • Lecce Cathedral

  • Temptation-of-Eve in the Church of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria

  • Basilica of Saint Nicholas

  • Barletta Cathedral

  • Ostuni Cathedral

Fitness / Practicalities
Tour Director

  • Explore the diverse artistic and architectural heritage of Bari, Barletta, Matera and Otranto

  • Visit UNESCO-listed sites, including the Sasso district in the ancient city of Matera and Alberobello with its delightful trulli

  • Discover one of southern Italy’s most impressive 15th century narrative fresco cycles, covering every inch of the walls of the Romanesque Church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria

“This was a fascinating tour made memorable by Andrew’s wide knowledge and his ability to communicate some quite complex history of the development of ideas and thought throughout the period”

- ACE customer on the 2023 Art & Architecture of Puglia tour led by Andrew Spira

Nestled in the heel of Italy lies Puglia – or Apulia as it was originally named – the most prosperous region in the south of the country, but surprisingly one of its less-frequented parts. The diversity of its architectural heritage – Greek, Roman, Romanesque, Norman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque – reflects its multifaceted past and importance on ancient trading and pilgrimage routes.


The art and architecture of this cosmopolitan region borrows elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient and the north European Cistercian Gothic. From bases in the port and university city of Bari and the Baroque city of Lecce, we will delve beneath the surface to explore a variety of fascinating sites.


Beginning in Bari, we will explore the Romanesque Cathedral, Basilica of San Nicola, and Pinacoteca Provinciale, home to a distinguished collection of Old Master paintings, sculptures and 19th century Italian art. Meanwhile, in Barletta, we will visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore, built in both the Romanesque and Gothic styles, and the Pinacoteca de Nittis, housed in the Palazzo della Mara.


A highlight of our tour will be the opportunity to explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Alberobello, capital of trulli country. We will also make an excursion to the ancient city of Matera, to discover the ‘Sassi’, originally a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, with dwellings and churches carved into the rock. Matera is moreover home to the 13th century Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria della Bruna, with an 18th century Baroque interior.


After sampling some of the region’s olive oil on a visit to a local producer – complete with a tour of the olive groves, mill and walnut orchards – our journey continues in Lecce, the ‘Florence of the South’, where we will take in the city’s beautiful piazzas, churches and Roman remains.


In the cathedral of the captivating coastal town of Otranto we will view the 12th century Tree of Life mosaic. This extraordinary floor design contains biblical references alongside signs of the zodiac, references to Greek mythology and even images of King Arthur and the pre-Islamic Persian lion of the Sassanid Empire.


Towards the end of our tour, we will have the opportunity to marvel at exquisite frescoes, including the 13th century paintings at Santa Maria di Cerrate, a charming example of Pugliese Romanesque architecture, and the celebrated 15th century fresco cycles in the Church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria at Galatina.


Our first four nights will be spent in the heart of historical Bari at the five-star Grande Albergo Nazioni Hotel, located on the waterfront overlooking the Adriatic Sea. We will then continue to the beautiful city of Lecce for three nights at the centrally located five-star Patria Palace Hotel, an elegant property set in a former 18th century palazzo.


This tour will be led by art historian Andrew Spira, MA, who studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art and City University, London. For several years Andrew was a specialist in Byzantine and Russian icons at the Temple Gallery, London, before working as a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. He was subsequently Programme Director at Christie’s Education, and has been leading tours to cultural sites across Europe for over 20 years.

Tour Code

Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, seven breakfasts, five dinners with wine, water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £590.

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